Hiya folks! So uh... this is a Coco fanfic! Obviously. Two years later and I'm still writing stories about skeletons... what is my life.
A couple things to note: For one, while I generally try to stick as close to canon as possible, there are two little deviations to canon I'm making in this fic. For one, skeletons can shed tears, because I say so. For the other, I know the book (Coco: A Story about Music, Shoes, and Family-great book, btw, check it out) said that Mama Coco died closer to the next Day of the Dead, but I'm tweaking the date for this fic-here, she died a month after the movie (but before the "One Year Later" epilogue), and she was able to pass enough stories on for Hector to be okay. Other than those details, I'm going to keep as close to canon as possible. Cool? Cool.
One other thing-if you have constructive criticism, please feel free to give it! PLEASE. This is my first time writing these characters so if you think I'm not portraying them IC, let me know! Also give me any corrections on my Spanish here, since I last took a Spanish class roughly a decade ago, and have been relying heavily on Google translate and SpanishDict...
With that settled, here we go. On with the fic!
"So—so then what happened?"
"Well, I may have forgotten to wait for the paint to dry…"
"Hey, I was in a hurry! But of course, while my costume was quite convincing, the glowing hand and footprints I left behind were… less so."
"I bet they led security straight to you!"
"Sí. It was… not my proudest moment."
Laughter rang out over the pleasant crackling of the bonfire, around which a dozen or so residents of Shantytown sat. One or two souls slapped their kneecaps in mirth, while one was mopping the tears from her face between giggles. After a moment, the nearly-forgotten souls noticed that their guest was watching them patiently, not having finished his thought, and leaned in closer again.
"Nor was the moment shortly afterward when they had to strip me to the bone and hose me down."
That sent them howling, and Héctor, still grinning in a mix of amusement and embarrassment, couldn't help joining in. Their laughter only got worse when a CRACK like a gunshot sent one of them—Carla—falling backward off her now-broken chair, and Héctor had to scramble to help the poor lady back up. She nearly dragged him down with her, the both of them having trouble keeping their balance from the combination of laughter and slight inebriation.
When Héctor finally returned to his seat, one man, Aureliano, startled him with a hearty thump on the back. "How did you think of these things, cousin?" he asked, beard twitching in a grin.
His smile faltered a little. "Well, getting stuck in no-photo limbo for a century leaves you a lot of time to think, eh?"
That quieted them down, the souls looking down between the fire and the ground in somber thought.
Never one to let others feel sorry for him, Héctor waved a dismissive hand. "Ah, but that's all in the past! It doesn't matter, now that I have mi familia." He looked around the crowd as they lifted their heads, and grinned, throwing out his arms in a wide gesture. "As well as MI FAMILIA!"
Everyone gave a cheer of agreement, holding out their glasses in a toast.
Carla reached out, taking Héctor's hand. "Gracias for visiting us, Héctor. It… it means a lot."
Staring down at her yellowed hand placed over his white one, Héctor felt his eyes going misty. He glanced away, blinking rapidly to keep any tears from forming, then turned back to face her with a genuine smile. "I would never forget mi familia, blood or no blood."
"Héctor, none of us have blood anymore."
Chuckles all around. Everyone was quieting down as the lateness of the night began to settle in. They'd been there for several hours now, drinking, sharing stories, playing music (which Héctor now did with pride once again), and generally enjoying one another's presence. Héctor sat back and regarded the group fondly, only to sit up straight and alert. "Does anyone have the time?" he asked suddenly.
"Uh…" Aureliano held out his watch toward the light of the bonfire. "Son las once menos veinte."
"Then I need to be going." Héctor rose from his seat and slung his guitar case over his shoulder. "Adiós, cousins!" he called back as he headed toward the gate.
"Adiós, Cousin Héctor!" a few voices called after him, followed by a "Come back next week!" from Carla.
"You know I will, prima!"
And with that, he left the town, still savoring the sounds of laughter and cheerful conversation as they faded into the night.
It was warm and pleasant tonight, though that feeling may have just been from the alcohol. It was dark as well, but not so much that Héctor couldn't make his way back home. He'd been walking these streets for the better part of ninety years or so, and besides that, he'd walked to and from Shantytown and the Rivera household over and over again to time himself—he would never, ever be home late. He would not have Imelda or Coco worry over him—not now, nor ever again.
At first Imelda hadn't been sure what to think of his trips to Shantytown every week, but he'd insisted on it—the people there had been his familia for most of his afterlife, and he enjoyed their company. He wasn't going to abandon them, especially when, as Carla said, his very existence as someone who had been remembered from the brink of Final Death gave them all hope… hope that perhaps the same might happen for them.
The space inside his ribcage ached. He hoped so, too.
He'd been blessed beyond measure after his adventure with Miguel. It had taken some time, some getting used to, but he was slowly rebuilding his relationship with his wife, making up for lost time as he got to know the rest of his familia… and spending time with his Coco.
A smile crossed his face at the thought of greeting his girls at the door, taking them both into his arms. Yes, he saw them every day, but that didn't matter; their every moment together was a miracle, and he would never take it for granted. They'd been working hard in the shop all day—Coco herself had been working on an order of custom dance shoes, and would be making a late-night delivery—and it would be lovely to relax and spend the night with them. Perhaps he could even surprise them tonight if he picked up the pace, and got home a little early—
His foot caught against something on the ground, catapulting the rest of him forward and into a huge pile of debris. Groaning, Héctor pushed himself up on one arm, rubbing his head as he looked up at the junk that filled the narrow alley he usually cut through. Crates, boxes, and garbage he couldn't clearly see were completely blocking his way.
When did this happen?
Frowning, he reached back to retrieve his leg, only for his hand to grasp empty air. With a confused blink, he twisted himself around—his detached limb was nowhere in sight.
Well, that was a problem. Had he lost it amongst the garbage?
Héctor winced as he shuffled around the ground, lifting up broken boards and pieces of cardboard as he searched for his leg. Hopefully this wouldn't take too long, but if worse came to worst, he could just run the rest of the way home. But his leg didn't appear to be anywhere. Maybe if he…
Focusing, he wriggled his missing foot, listening for the sound of rustling and focusing on what he could feel. Much to his bewilderment, his foot kicked freely—there wasn't even any ground beneath it. Pero qué—
Something rustled behind him, followed by a quiet voice: "Looking for this?"
Before he could react, his tibia and fibula were swiftly reattached to his femur and kneecap. Heaving a sigh of relief, Héctor sat up on his knees. He then spotted an outstretched hand, which he readily took. "Gracias, se—"
The hand hoisted him upright, and Héctor found himself face-to-face with the pearly white bones of Ernesto de la Cruz.
Panic shot through his marrow as he scrambled backward.
Ernesto did not release his grip.
Though the fear was still there, it was quickly overshadowed by anger. "What are you doing here?!" Héctor growled, quickly glancing at the pile of debris and gesturing at it with his free hand. "Did you do this?"
Ernesto regarded him with an unreadable look and a tilted head. He still kept a firm grip on his hand. "Héctor, my friend… I have something to discuss with you. Come with me."
"No!" Héctor tugged at his arm, growling as Ernesto's grip only grew tighter. As he fought, he glared into Ernesto's face—something didn't feel right about it (other than the fact that Ernesto was there, in front of him, in the first place), but in his panic and anger, he couldn't figure out exactly what. "Let go of me, idiota!"
When the man's grip continued to tighten, Héctor finally stopped, arm going slack. His expression softened a little, and he gave a short nod of agreement. "Fine."
And before Ernesto could react, he bolted away, leaving his arm behind like a lizard dropping its tail in the sand. It was a trick he'd pulled on the security at the gate a few times—usually it startled them enough to drop his arm, which he would then call back to himself as he got away.
Except Ernesto wasn't letting go.
Still running, Héctor focused on calling his arm back, tugging against Ernesto's grip. It was starting to hurt his wrist, the pain increasing with every tug… and then some. With a sharp gasp, Héctor screeched to a halt, straining to grab at an arm that wasn't there.
He could feel the bones of his hand being pried apart as foreign objects dug between his metacarpals. With a flurry of panic he realized what was going on, and attempted to scatter the bones in his missing hand and arm. It would be a pain to reassemble them, but better than their being broken.
He felt his arm bones clatter harmlessly to the ground, and began to call them back, only to give a strangled yelp when something stomped on his bad ulna. That only just healed…!
Ribcage heaving, he gave his separated bones another desperate tug. His humerus and radius finally returned, snapping back into place, but the pressure on his ulna only worsened—as did the pressure on the rest of his missing bones, which was getting unbearable. His ulna was being grinded into the ground, and the bones of his hand were being crushed against each other. If this didn't stop…
"Ay! AY! OKAY!" he shouted, forcing himself to turn around. He couldn't see Ernesto in the shadows of the alley until he trudged closer; as he approached, he could finally see that the man's foot was firmly stomped down onto his ulna, right on the spot where the duct tape was still applied. On top of that, Ernesto held something tightly in his fists—his other missing bones.
Héctor had trapped himself. Wilting slightly, he gave him a tired look. "What do you want, Ernesto?"
The man regarded him cooly before jerking his head toward one of the nearby buildings, the door of which was slightly ajar. Mercifully he took his foot off Héctor's ulna and stepped through the doorway, keeping the other bones firmly in his grasp.
Wasting no time, Héctor summoned his ulna back, swallowing another pained yelp when it snapped into place. Yes, the fracture in it had definitely re-opened. It was annoying, but he could deal with that, probably… and hopefully his familia wouldn't notice, if he just reapplied the duct tape. Oh, sí, I'll get around to taking it off later, he would tell them, and it wouldn't exactly be a lie.
His hand was another matter.
Staring into the dark building, Héctor hesitated. If he'd still had a heart, it would have been pounding at the thought of entering a strange building with his murderer. Experimentally he tried pulling the rest of his missing bones back, but flinched when he felt them clang against something metal. Wherever they were now, they probably weren't going to be easy to get back.
He flinched inwardly—was this karma for what he'd done with Chicharrón's femur?
Ernesto's voice startled him out of his thoughts. "Do you want your hand back or not?"
Sí, but Héctor couldn't ignore the feeling of dread filling the space where his stomach used to be. Ernesto was holding him hostage—part of him, anyway—which could only mean bad things. On top of that, he was absolutely going to be late getting home, and that thought hurt more than Ernesto's shoe stomping on his arm.
Héctor found himself in a terrifyingly familiar situation—standing in a doorway and wanting to run directly home, while his murderous "amigo"beckoned him inside.
Looking out toward the main road on the other side of the alley, he tried to figure just how long it would take him to get home if he ran the entire way—
Pain knifed through his missing hand, and Héctor barely managed to swallow a scream.
He had no choice.
Terror pulsing through his marrow, Héctor stepped through the door.